French Socialists Drub Conservative Incumbents

Article excerpt

Riding a crest of indignation over France's nearly 13 percent unemployment rate, the nation's Socialist-led opposition overwhelmed President Jacques Chirac's center-conservative coalition Sunday in a second-round parliamentary election runoff.

The results will force Chirac to share power with a left-wing government.

Socialist Party leader Lionel Jospin is the man most likely to be asked to form a government today and become the new prime minister. Following its defeat in first-round voting on May 25, Chirac's center-right coalition tried to rally disgruntled French voters around the specter of a return to the budget-busting policies of previous Socialist governments. It didn't work. The Socialists pledged to create 700,000 jobs for young people, with half of the jobs in the public sector, and to reduce the work week to 35 from 39 hours without loss of pay. Hundreds of cheering Socialist supporters crashed the movement's victory party at a cultural center in Paris, overwhelming guards who had orders to admit only 2,000 invited guests and journalists. Chants of "We have won! We have won!" greeted the announcement of the election result. Chirac had dissolved the National Assembly April 21 saying he needed a "new elan" with free-market reform and an austerity program aimed at qualifying France for participation in a plan to turn Europe into an economic superpower with a single currency. The requirement, spelled out in the European union treaty of 1992, is a budget deficit of no more than 3 percent of gross domestic product. How they will keep their pledge of 350,000 new government jobs while meeting this requirement is something the Socialists have not explained. Jospin had hammered away at the conservatives' failure to cut the 12.8 percent unemployment rate. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Socialists' likely finance minister, said the right had lost because of unemployment. "In 1993, the French people told the Socialists they didn't want them any more, I think, because we hadn't succeeded on unemployment. …


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